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Using Twitter to improve a service

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: DVLA Digital Services

Not long ago I went to a conference and an analogy stuck with me...'you should see Twitter as the world’s largest focus group’, with responsibility for social media engagement it was something I was keen to introduce at DVLA.

As many of you will know, there are benefits to using social media channels as a means of engaging and sending communication messages to customers and stakeholders. At DVLA we’ve been using our social media channels to good effect to get timely, relevant communications, for example service outages, posting answers to FAQs to help reduce impact on our contact centre and directing customers to GOV.UK where they can self serve.

Not using Twitter to conduct customer research we seemed to be missing a trick – especially when it is free insight! We worked closely with our colleagues on the Customer Insight Team to explore how best to use this channel. We were approached by the Service Manager and Product Owner on the view driving record exemplar project  to see if we could help gather some information for their project. Jamie’s blog and Chris’s blog posts refer to how their work is providing customer insight on the view driving record service. It’s provided us with vast amount of qualitative insight – something that we can act on.  However, we also needed to get some quantitative measures to give us confidence the service we are developing will meet the needs of the 45m GB driving licence holders. Twitter was the ideal channel to use!

Rohan Gye, our Service Manager was due to give a presentation at a channel shift in the public sector conference. He was keen to show how we were putting user testing at the forefront of service design at DVLA, but show something in ‘real time’. Timing was important! The Customer Insight Team developed a survey to test customer’s preferences for one of two versions of the view driving record screens. Our aim was to post one of our many tweets promoting the survey to co-inside with Rohan’s presentation, even better if we could get it to appear in our Twitter feed when he reached that slide in his presentation. I’m glad to say it worked out just right! It was probably more luck than judgement, but while Rohan was delivering his presentation we noticed customers were replying to our tweets, you can’t get much quicker than that.

The results showed there was a marginal preference for Version B (56%). However, the additional comments we gathered really helped get a deeper understanding of the reasons why and directly informed the development of the latest version (currently undergoing user testing, Jamie’s next blog will elaborate).

Conducting research this way is a very quick process. Once the online survey is produced we can place it on Twitter very quickly, getting in touch with stakeholders, DfT and our sister agencies to help maximise its reach. Within days it can provide valuable results that can be included into any design requirements for a service.

We’re keen to expand the use of social media to gather customer insight and are currently asking for views on paying for vehicle tax by Direct Debit. However, it’s not just Twitter; our surveys are also placed on our Facebook page. These are now just another set of tools we can use to gather insight.

But what did we learn? Well firstly if we were to do it again it’s to make sure any images used are in high resolution. Our customers had difficulty seeing the details on the first images we posted on Twitter,  something we were able to quickly resolve through high res versions.

Given the nature of Twitter people don’t want to spend all day answering endless survey questions. In depth surveys certainly have their place when exploring complicated issues or when we need to reach a specific audience. However, when it comes to Twitter, we appreciate the need for short, sharp, snapshot surveys.

Another concern we had is that Twitter is used all over the world and do we really need customers commenting or replying to a survey when they live in other parts of the world? Sometimes we do if it adds value but if it’s specific to GB drivers or vehicle owners, the survey only needs a simple filter question at the beginning to ensure those customers don’t waste their time completing it.

Something we’d consider next time when asking our customers to compare two versions is to provide a unique hashtag for each image or option. This would allow us to quickly evaluate those customers replying via Twitter who do not choose to complete the online survey.

We’ll also be using this blog in future to post some of our usability videos, showing you actual customers using the service highlighting their comments and suggestions for improvement.

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  1. Comment by David Durant posted on

    I'd be very careful of using Twitter to drive any changes to your service. As a partial input to user insight it can be very powerful but it has to be used in context. Pew Research recently published some figures showing that for internet users less than 20% user Twitter ( Of course this is on top of the significant number of people, especially in some demographics, that don't use the internet at all.

    You also may wish to read the GDS blog entry on why using FAQs is often not the best way to provide information to citizen users :

    • Replies to David Durant>

      Comment by Wynne Keenan posted on

      Hi David

      Thanks for your comments and advice, I agree that solely using Twitter would introduce a bias.

      The survey we conducted via Twitter was in addition to other methodologies used to ensure we had a wide sample of customer demographics that informed our decision on the preferred screens use/test. Twitter is just one channel in our insight toolkit.

      There are a number of methodologies we use on team but just on VDR we conducted:

      • 10 rounds of usability testing (6 customers per test, observing their interaction with the service and noting the difficulties they encounter)

      • A/B testing internally and externally (the Twitter element only accounted for approx 10% of the total customer responses)

      • we also used various pieces of information from surveys to help us build a profile of our customers and their propensity to transact online or what channel would be best for an assisted route (sample of 1500)

      On the FAQ issue, our corporate Twitter account is managed so that we provide answers to customer enquiries. We do not post links to a list of FAQs but we have found that customers generally do not search through our history for answers to similar questions but simply ask what's relevant to them at that time.

      Proactively, we have set up the hashtag #DVLAFAQ for answers to our Contact Centre's high volume calls, directing the user to GOV.UK for more details.